North Cowichan’s council will decide in the council meeting on June 1 what penalties, if any, should be imposed on councillor Kate Marsh after Mayor Al Siebring made a conduct complaint against her.
Investigator Sharon Cartmill-Lane conducted a lengthy investigation into Siebring’s complaint and made several recommendations in her report to council.
Siebring’s complaint against Marsh. a three-term councillor, stems largely from a committee of the whole meeting on Sept. 7, 2021 in which the Bell McKinnon Local Area Plan was being discussed.
According to the report on the issue, council had received an email that day from the lead referrals coordinator at Cowichan Tribes stating that the First Nation “supports service-supported contained development in designated growth centres that will lead to less vehicular traffic and fossil-fuel emissions” and advocated for council to consider this in discussions about development in the Bell McKinnon area, where the new Cowichan Regional Hospital is to be constructed.
At the meeting, Siebring said he wondered whether the email was an expression of personal opinion from the First Nation’s director of lands and self governance and the lead referrals coordinator, or whether it was a reflection of an official position taken by way of a band council resolution.
“Apparently this issue has never come up at the First Nation council; not in the current discussion that we’re having,” he said to council.
“And the subject line on that email shows me that it was clearly a response to the blanket email that went out from One Cowichan. It was not a response to any referral request we made in the context of our current discussion. The fact is we did refer the original Bell McKinnon Local Area Plan to [Cowichan Tribes] for comment, and there doesn’t seem to have been any substantive objection to the land uses or densities in that plan when the draft plan was referred to them in 2018.”
After the meeting, Marsh sent an email to council members in which she stated that she has “never felt so ashamed and embarrassed at the cavalier attitude towards an email that begins with [the First Nation] prefers etc, and is from the [director of the First Nation’s lands and self governance]”.
“So sad that the email was singled out as insignificant, and only from one person, basically calling all those named in the email liars,” Marsh said in her email.
Siebring also complained that Marsh made disparaging remarks against him in a call to Cowichan Tribes’ lead referrals coordinator in the days after the meeting.
He also said in his complaint that Marsh “has shown persistent hostility, animus and disrespect to me in my role”.
Marsh said she would be happy to be able to take and respond to questions on the issue that she is able to.
“But certainly, this is not the time,” she said.
Siebring said he won’t comment until after council deals with Cartmill-Lane’s report and its recommendations on June 1.
The recommendations include that Marsh provide a letter of apology in relation to the email she sent to council members after the COW meeting, that Marsh share the letter of apology with council, that Marsh undertakes to not communicate in a disrespectful and inflammatory manner with Siebring or other members of council, and that she attend a coaching session on respectful communication.
Marsh could also face a pay cut of 10 per cent for 12 months for breaching the municipality’s standards of conduct policy.